for the Spain they believed to be better
An invitation to recover historical memory in Spain
in Paracuellos del Jarama
The Paracuellos massacres were a series of mass killings of civilians and soldiers considered as opposed to the Republican side that took place before and during the Battle for Madrid during the early stages of the Spanish Civil war. The death toll remains the subject of debate and controversy.
The events took place in two places near the city of Madrid Paracuellos de Jarama and Torrejón de Ardoz. Thousands of political prisoners and military personnel had been incarcerated in Madrid since before the start of the war in July 1936 (around 5,000). Many of them had been captured during the failed rising of the Montaña barracks in western Madrid. These prisoners came under the control of the newly created Junta de Defensa de Madrid (Committee for the Defence of Madrid). This was an emergency committee left in charge of the city on November 7, after the Republican government led by Francisco Largo Caballero evacuated Madrid for its new (temporary) capital in Valencia.
A large percentage of these prisoners were taken out of prison in so-called sacas (extractions), 33 in total, between November 7 and December 4, as the Nationalists launched their assault on the Madrid. The Republicans feared the presence of so many potentially hostile prisoners in their rear during the battle. These extractions were ordered in writing by the Republican authorities in Madrid, often in documents signed by Segundo Serrano Poncela, deputy for Public Order working directly under the supervision of the young Communist politician Santiago Carrillo. However, the responsibility of Carrillo in the massacre is much debated.
According to the historian Javier Cervera, the sacas carried out to move prisoners to other locations didn't result in executions, and these prisoners were re-located further away from the front, to Alcalá de Henares. Paracuellos, however, a massacre resulted. According to British historian, Antony Beevo, the order to kill the prisoners most likely came from the Spanish Communist José Cazorla, or, more indirectly, from the Soviet advisor Mikhail Kolstov.
A majority of prisoners, who were told they would be set free, were taken by trucks to fields outside Paracuellos del Jarama and Torrejón de Ardoz, where they were shot and buried in mass graves. The first shootings took place before dawn on November 7, and continued at a fast pace until November 10, when they were temporarily halted after the anarchist Melchor Rodríguez (who opposed executions) became head of the Madrid prison system. The executions resumed on November 14, when Rodríguez resigned, and did not stop until he resumed the post in early December. From the early days, news spead of the executions and they were denounced by foreign diplomats based in Madrid, including the consul of Norway and the German ambassador, Felix Schyaler, who talked about the issue with Santiago Carrillo. Most of those killed in the Paracuellos massacre were civilians, soldiers or Catholic priests.
The number of those killed at Paracuellos is still controversial. In 1977, figure of 12,000 deaths was cited by the right wing journal El Alcazar and the list of names was published in the book Matanzas en el Madrid Republicano, by César Vidal, although many of the bodies were never found. The minimum figure cited is around 1,000 deaths, by Gabriel Jackson in 1967 and Paul Preston in 2006, but this is considerably lower than the estimates of most modern historians. Jackson mentions around 1,000 on 6 and 7 November. Other historians have put the death toll at between 2: Hugh Thomas: 2,000; Beevor: at least 2,000; Ledesma: 2,200-2,500; Julián Casanova: 2,700, and Javier Cervera, over 2000.
These photos were taken in December 2017.